I had planned to be somewhere else today: offline. But just as the bat signal compels Bruce Wayne to slip down to his strange dungeon and heave on his crime-fighting fetish gear so too must I answer this:
Like being able to bend your legs right behind your head, it’s an honour and a curse to be mentioned in the Blind Date column itself – I think this is around the fifth time but who’s counting – and given that Weekend magazine is set to close soon and possibly take the Blind Date with it, we must make gay while the sun shines. No, not a typo.
Meet Tony (on the left, thatched) a 28-year-old marketing consultant (says ‘synergy’ and ‘brand awareness’ a lot) and Kieran (on the right, roof down), who is 34 and a hospital pharmacist.
Read the full version of their dating questionnaire on the Guardian website before I steam on in and get them to say my name, say my name. Etc.
Tony on Kieran | Kieran on Tony
What were you hoping for?
The romcom fantasy – the restaurant bursts into spontaneous song kind. More realistically, someone with a pulse who can look beyond the fact that a professional hasn’t touched my hair all year.
Worth remembering, probably, that the bulk of most romcoms is taken up with keeping apart the people who absolutely should be together through increasingly convoluted means, random scenes of humiliation, bad English accents, and a plucky best friend who would’ve made a much better main character than either of the two drippy leads.
Hair. Lockdown was hard for me in many ways, but watching what my hair got up to safely away from a barber’s scissors for five months was like being in some kind of immersive horror performance. First it got tall and then, like dried spaghetti as it finally gives into the boiling water, it just collapsed and sat there, waiting for instructions. I felt like I had a cat on my head. As interesting as it was to see what would happen to my hair should I ever be cast away on an island or move to a country where I didn’t speak enough of the language to give very precise instructions on ‘shape’ and ‘thinning out’, I was very grateful to feel the blades upon it once again.
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone new (and a non-scathing review in the Guyliner).
We’ve discussed this, I know, but you can’t answer this questions with “tO mEeT sOmEoNe nEw” and not expect me to tear you a new one.
Very friendly and engaging from the get-go, which set the tone nicely.
“From the get-go” is pure Victoria Wood, isn’t it? Love it.
Full head of hair – how novel! He’s smiling. Flawless skin.
We have already talked about hair so I won’t bang on, and I have said this before but I don’t know what I would do if I lost my hair. Wear hats? Stay in? Buy wigs? Not sure. Nothing against baldness in others, I just have the wrong face for no hair.
Anyway, this is a good first impression answer because it’s delivered as if in real time, which is the best way to do it. I don’t make the rules!
What did you talk about?
Obviously, the big C word. He works for the NHS, so I was lapping up the inside scoop. Also, the enthusiasm of American tourists, and how memes give us a lifeline in testing times.
Prof Denise Welch, working from home, Covid (how uplifting), me sweating profusely in PPE, Twitter gays, museums, bottomless brunches (shudder), me without a beard/him with a beard.
Coronavirus ✅✅ – Ugh. Well, I can’t blame them for talking about it on the date really, what else is there? Like Brexit and the ever present cumulocuntus cloud of Trump, our lives are dominated by huge stories that feel very much out of our control. I don’t know what else to say about coronavirus other than don’t give up, please wear your mask over your nose and mouth, and for GOODNESS sake, please hand the Tories their own arses at the next available opportunity.
Bottomless brunches – I remember about 15 years ago there were only around three places to get a bottomless brunch in London (one was the Savoy, I think) and it was the height of cool. Now it’s edged into naffness and I do think this strange and also a bit sad. I assume it’s because more places are doing them, so bottomless brunches have been deregulated to a degree – any old Mr Average can get a deal on Groupon. Isn’t it a shame we can’t just enjoy something for just what it is and how it makes us feel, rather than how cool and inaccessible it is to others. Does limitless prosecco really taste better behind a locked door? When we’re all eating gruel in five years’ time, you’ll regret that day you turned down an invitation to a bottomless brunch in a suburban All Bar One clone and stayed home bingeing on the latest Netflix buzz show on a TV you eventually had to sell for food.
Any awkward moments?
I managed to order an absolute fireball of a cocktail that I meekly sipped throughout the meal. I think I styled it out, but my inner saboteur screamed that I looked like a prat.
The inner saboteur is a term that has been recently popularised by RuPaul, right? I don’t really take much notice of him, tbh, but I guess we all have one of these – I, in fact, have several, who take it in turns to embarrass themselves at bottomless brunches. I suppose it’s worth remembering that fewer people are looking at you than you think. Seriously, everyone is too wrapped up in themselves to even notice those… what are they? Mittens? Slipper socks? No, honestly, they’re fine. Impostor syndrome, comparison culture, inner saboteur – whatever. It always feels to me like some people could do with a spot of impostor syndrome – namely the entire Cabinet; Armie Hammer and Lily James (why are they in everything?); any guest on Have I Got News For You – so you owe it to yourself to sweep it aside as best you can and just do your thing. And don’t listen to anybody who posts motivational quotes on social media – they are almost always an absolute fucking mess away from the camera.
Any awkward moments?
I did ask if he could grow a “proper” beard. Cringe.
Wasn’t there a study, or a piece, or some article hastily cobbled together to fill space because Kim Kardashian didn’t post on Instagram that day, which said beards were basically CenterParcs for coronavirus (as well as poo particles)? I wonder how long it’s going to take anti-maskers to start growing them.
Good table manners?
He let me choose the shared starters. I say “let” – I mean, I told him I was a sharer and we were sharing starters.
No prizes for any kind of bingo in this house. I shall not be trolled.
Best thing about them?
He’s a self-described chatterbox. He kept the conversation flowing and dived into just about everything.
He guessed I was 31! He was so easy to chat to, laid-back and very friendly.
Kieran, did you ASK him to guess your age? Of course he’s going to say 31! Even if you were bent up in two and your face looked like a map of the north face of the Eiger, he’d have said 31. It’s ‘safe’.
Being asked to guess someone’s age is an anxiety trigger on a level with being asked to recommend a good restaurant or a book, or for your opinion on a truly awful outfit.
Anyway, it’s great that the chat was ‘flowing’ (reminder: sewage also flows quite well) and that they were ‘laid-back and friendly’, like a chaise-longue that’s half Dachshund on its mother’s side.
Describe Kieran in three words
Chatty, engaging, open.
CHATTY, like two shop assistants who clocked that you rolled your eyes as you approached them so decided to ignore you and have a very loud conversation about pop music, coronavirus, and the assistant manager’s recent gonorrhoea diagnosis.
ENGAGING, like a PowerPoint presentation with ClipArt animations, lots of underlining of the word ‘strategy’ (misspelled twice on the same slide in one instance) and a blank slide saying only ‘put some other shit about sales figures here’, delivered by a nervous man from another department who self-consciously scratches his left pectoral (shaped but not firm) while he’s talking. He has a coffee stain on his tie. His mask isn’t over his nose. His wife left him twice during lockdown and he told you about it once, in the office kitchen, ignoring social distancing, breathing over your Yum Yum. He once pretended to get PPE and PPI mixed up for an icebreaker joke and it went really badly. His first name has just one syllable and every time you hear it, you retch.
OPEN, like your ex’s DMs, to everyone but you.
Describe Tony in three words
A good egg.
A, like the first letter of the alphabet.
GOOD, like the opposite of bad.
What do you think he made of you?
I definitely put out the disclaimer I’d been in all-day online training, so hopefully he thought less “the lights were on, but nobody was home” and more “he’s an active listener”.
While I’m sure Tony is a terrific listener, there’s a difference between actively listening and just staying silent long enough to give the impression you are. So many people just sit there counting down until they can next respectably interrupt. You can see it in their eyes, waiting to interject.
What do you think he made of you?
Talkative, friendly… How is this man still single?
Kieran is like 1997 Geri Halliwell after three TVRs (tequila, vodka and red bull), just as Jump to the Beat (Dannii version) starts playing on the radio. Less is more, Kieran. Less.
If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
It’s a no from me. There was laughter in the air, but love (or something less dramatic)? I don’t think so.
Nah, there was no mutual attraction.
After all that, not even an IMAGINED fumble?!? Don’t you realise straight people read this and try to live vicariously through our LGBTQplus-ness, to invigorate their otherwise dull existences discussing water rates, the oil level on their car (a Toyota Vanilla), school catchment areas, Coldplay, the attractiveness of cabinet ministers, and their ‘secret ingredient for the perfect Bolognese’ (always ketchup or Lea & Perrins, sorry boys). It is our duty to sex up this nightmare of a situation, an era so dark and dreary it rivals only Lady Gaga’s jazz ‘n’ Joanne phase (straights: Google it). You could at least have pretended the only thing stopping you frotting against one another like the two legs of a corduroy pantsuit was social distancing and not a lack of attraction. GOD, how will we keep up our sex-obsessed reputation in the prurient minds of our fascinated observers if we give away that, yes, sadly, we are *just* as dull as the rest of them?
Marks out of 10?
A solid 7. Great company but sadly no flutters.
Solid. Like a poo after you’ve been constipated for three days because you refused to use the toilets at a festival. Remember festivals?
Would you meet again?
Likely not, although I’d hover to say a quick hello in the street, if we passed.
We didn’t swap numbers, but if I’m cycling through south London and see him, I’ll shout something obscene.
About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do or don’t want to see each other again. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; and, please, enjoy your bottomless brunch. It’s better than a topless one.